L O S A N G E L E S, Jan. 19, 2002 -- Fewer Americans are smoking these days, but a new study finds that in the movies, many of which are R-rated, more characters are smoking than ever before.
Emily Watson lounges and smokes in Gosford Park, Gene Hackman and Gwyneth Paltrow light up in The Royal Tenenbaums. Billy Bob Thornton's co-star in The Man Who Wasn't There said all Thornton's character does on screen is smoke and breathe.
Stan Glantz, a professor at the University of California-San Francisco, who studied movie smoking from the 1960s to 2000, said the lead characters in films are four times more likely to smoke than real people.
"If you look at the imagery of smoking in the movies as it's presented, it really looks much more like a cigarette advertisement than it does reality," he said.
Glantz's campaign for smoke-free movies tried to place an advertisement in Daily Variety objecting to Sissy Spacek's smoking and a prominent pack of Marlboros in the film, In the Bedroom.
Variety rejected the ad, saying it unfairly singled out one movie. And the director said smoking was necessary for Spacek's character.
"She smokes four cigarettes in the film that are very specific moments, and they're for very specific reasons," said the film's director and co-writer, Todd Field.
In the old days, smoking was used to glamorize the stars. James Dean, who lit up in Rebel Without a Cause, made being a rebel a cause to smoke.
One Director Avoids Smoking Scenes
These days, Rob Reiner, for one, keeps smoking out of his own movies, because he said it sends a bad message.
"I do notice every time somebody lights up a cigarette in the movies, I'm always aware of it," Reiner said. "And I will say as it happens, 'Why did they need to do that?'"
"That it has become a cliché — that a certain kind of character smokes," said Lindsay Doran, a Hollywood producer who used to run United Artists. "And when people think of it that way, sometimes they're challenged to do something else."
In Saving Private Ryan, Tom Hanks was given a nervous twitch in his hand, instead of a cigarette.
But in the current film Monster's Ball, one of the writers says smoking is a creative choice.
"I don't say to myself, 'Well, you know, this would be really cool if this guy smokes, you know, because the smoke will come out of the face and we can do some great shots,'" said the writer, Milo Addica. "I'm saying, no, we say, 'Would this guy have smoked?'"
Maybe the guy would smoke, but some say every time an actor lights up a cigarette on screen, it seems to spark an argument.